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The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

The Cold Dish - Craig Johnson

Set in Absaroka County, Wyoming, Sheriff Walt Longmire is having to deal with a dead body. He rather be drinking. Before long, another body turns up. Four years before, 4 boys were given a suspended sentence for rape of a mentally handicapped Cheyenne girl. Since two of them have turned up dead in a short amount of time, Walt revisits that old case for suspects to the recent murders.

There’s a lot of great characters in this book along with a complex mystery. First, let’s talk characters. Walt himself is an interesting man. He has a keen wit, but rarely feels the need to flash it about. He knows a well-timed silence can bring him more information than blathering on. Four years prior to the setting of this book, he lost his wife. He’s still mourning her in some ways. However, his best friend since childhood, Henry Standingbear, feels it is time for him to clean up, work out, start dating, and complete the final touches on his cabin on the outskirts of town. Henry and Walt served together in Vietnam, and Henry knows just how far he can push Walt when. For the reader, Henry is also a bridge between two cultures (American and Cheyenne). the humor displayed between these two often lightens a dark moment, or adds a touch of poignancy to a dire situation.

There’s plenty of women in this book and while they are all side characters, they have their own personalities and agendas. Overall, they are well written. However, I will say that I find it convenient and a bit amusing that all the women in the book (with the one exception of a mother I can think of and Walt’s daughter) are drawn romantically to either Walt or Henry. Still, I look forward to seeing how the women fare in the rest of the series.

The setting seems to be 1990s, though I might be off about that. There’s computers and a few cell phones, etc. However, I think Walt and Henry are in their 50s, and they both served in the Vietnam war. So, maybe late 1990s. If you have watched the TV series, Longmire, then you will have noticed that the TV series is set in modern times. No matter the year this book is set in, it is a modern-day Western. I really enjoyed the setting as it is somewhat like New Mexico, where I live. Lots of folks are hunters, own guns, plenty of space between homes and farms, and quite often a person can find themselves without backup in an emergency situation.

The murder mystery itself had some twists and turns and I was not expecting. Having it coupled to the older crime of the rape 4 years previously gave the murder mystery some depth. First, Walt had to determine if the two deaths were related to the older crime. If they were, he had a list of suspects. If they weren’t, then he had to find the motive before he could figure out suspects. One by one, his list of suspects dwindles. The ending was a bit of a surprise to me. However, the author did a good job of showing through Walt’s eyes how he missed the clues in front of him.

I’ll definitely be continuing this series. Mostly, it is the characters that drew me in and held me. They each have some flaw in their character that makes them human and easy to connect with. I am very curious to see where the author takes these characters that I grew attached to in such a short amount of time.

The Narration: George Guidall was a good fit for Walt Longmire, through whose eyes the story is told. Guidall is not always my favorite narrator as he has a limited range. for this book, he put it to good use. However, most of his female voices sound very similar to begin with and over the course of the book lose their individuality.